|A Formula for Success
Committee E53 on Property Management Systems
by Pat Picariello
New ASTM Committee E53 on Property Management Systems has demolished preconceptions
about consensus standards taking too long to develop. With three
committee standards approved and published in a years time, ASTM
has altered notions of the prohibitive time factor in developing
consensus standards. ASTM Staff Manager Pat Picariello describes
how the combination of an industry sectors need with the Societys
technological aids made for lightning-speed standards development.
Have you ever heard anyone make a joke about how long it takes
to get a standard through the ASTM process? Maybe youve been
at a coffee break during Committee Week talking to some friends,
and feeling somewhat sorry for yourself because your draft just
caught seven more negatives on its latest trip through a committee
ballot. At that moment the thought may have crossed your mind
that the ASTM process, though one of the best in the world, can
be fairly difficult to navigate.
Now what if I told you that a committee was able to take three
never-before-seen drafts, format them according to ASTM form and
style, gain general acceptance on the relevant issues prior to
ballot, complete a successful round of sub balloting, resolve
all negative votes, and complete a successful main committee ballot
resulting in three approved, full-consensus standards in one calendar
year? You might chuckle and recall fond memories of your childhood
when the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy seemed as real as the
ground under your feet.
What if I then told you that the committee that spawned these
three standards didnt even exist at this time last year? No,
I didnt sell swampland before I came to ASTM, but Committee E53
on Property Management Systems wasnt officially organized until
How was it possible for this committee to obliterate the average
amount of time it takes for a revision (let alone an entire standard)
to be approved? How were they able to accomplish this goal working
within a process known to move at a very deliberate pace?
The answer can be distilled into a simple formula:
Need + Technology = Goal
Industry need combined with thorough and precise organization
and ASTMs technological advancements resulted in Committee E53
being initiated, structured, organized, and populated within one
year. This formula allowed three standards to be written, circulated,
formatted, balloted, and approved in that same year. This story,
in and of itself, is remarkable. What is even more remarkable
is the fact that many of the tools that enabled E53 to operate
this efficiently are currently available to everyone and just
might be able to help you improve your time to market as well.
In January 2000, ASTM was contacted by representatives from the
National Property Management Association (NPMA) with a problem. The property/asset management industry
had matured to a point where the need for standards was a marketplace
reality, but a strategy to help meet that need was proving difficult
to establishcould ASTM help in this area?
This question is asked of ASTM many times per year. Typically,
a response will include an additional series of questions to help
flesh out the complete picture. Is the need real or perceived?
What is the breadth of the activity? Are all of the key stakeholders
represented? Has the activity been attempted before and if so,
what were the results? What is the degree of urgency inherent
in the need for standards
Nature of the Need and Breadth of Activity
The property industry is fairly diverse. Every corporate entity
(industrial, educational, or governmental) that owns something
must account for and report that its assets are being managed
efficiently and effectively. How do the shareholders of ITT know
that the corporations assets are being managed appropriately?
How do the taxpayers of a state or local government know that
their particular municipality is fiscally healthy? These questions
are answered by the development of consistent and uniformly applied
industry practices. The CFO of ITT can then point to a practice
for the inventory of ITTs assets. The state auditor for Alabama
can then demonstrate compliance with a practice for assessing
lost or damaged property. The development of these types of standards
provides reassurance and accountability, both of which are critical
to the long-term success of any industry segment.
The problem with the property industry was that no such standards
existed. Were there ways of recording this information? Of course
there were. In fact, there were many different ways of recording
this informationso many that it was quite impossible to determine
if anyone was performing as well as they could be. This industry
desperately wanted a consistently applied series of document developed
via input from the widest possible percentage of their industry.
They wanted a process to aid in the promulgation of a standardization
strategy for their industry and they came to ASTM for help.
Key Stakeholders in Place?
All of the right people in the right place at the right time.
Is this possible? How frequently can it be achieved? Issues such
as logistics, notice, promotion, apathy, and urgency can all play
a part in whether all key stakeholders are at the table when the
work begins. From the very first conference call, it was apparent
that the NPMA met these criteria as well as could be expected.
As an industry association (vs. a trade association), the NPMA
represented an ideal microcosm of the property industry. Participants
in the early discussions included representatives of industry
(ITT, Raytheon, Honeywell, Sandia Labs), federal government (Department
of Energy, Department of Defense, Department of Labor), state
government (Texas, Alabama, Florida, Georgia), and academia (Stanford
University, Worcester Polytechnic University, University of California-Berkeley).
This diverse nature of industry segments, combined with the common
goal of standards development, helped to ensure a solid and broadly
based foundation for the development of this activity.
Prior Attempts and Urgency
Early discussion and research quickly revealed that while the
need for property and asset standardization had existed for some
time, no cohesive or concerted effort had been made to develop
a standardization strategy for this industry. This conclusion
was made even more surprising by the obvious urgency displayed
by the industry during our initial discussions and the communication
of a very simple goala series of approved, full consensus standards
in one year.
Ambitious? Certainly. Unprecedented? Possibly. Possible? Absolutely!
Development of the Game Plan
Remember the formula for this success story:
Need + Technology = Goal
With the depth of the need having been established, the implementation
of a sound organizational philosophy was critical to any chance
for success. The major component of this philosophy was the development
of a timeline with a series of defined objectives that captured
every element necessary to meet the newly established goal.
1/00 ASTM initially contacted by NPMA
2/00 Draft document deliverables to ASTM
4/00 Establishment of Interactive Standards Development Forums
6/00 Organizational meeting of Committee E53 on Property Management
6/00 Development and balloting of E53 bylaws
7/00 Initiation of subcommittee ballots for draft standards
9/00 Submission of E53 scope and bylaws to
COTCO for review and approval
10/00 Submission of title, scope, and organizational structure
to ASTM Board
11/00 Initiation of main committee ballot for draft standards
1/01 Approval of E53 standards
Timelines are wonderful tools and on paper, almost anything can
be made to appear conceivable from a theoretical standpoint. However,
it is the difference between the theoretical and the practical
that would determine the fate of Committee E53s plans. The timeline
set a series of very ambitious goals and in order to accomplish
them on time and to the requisite degree, alternative approaches
would need to be employedapproaches made possible due to the
technological capabilities of ASTM.
Technology Makes the Difference
The first century of ASTMs standards development was almost entirely
dependent upon two thingspaper and the U.S. Postal Service. Without
these key elements, the bulk of ASTMs 11,000 standards would
never have been written, and this organization would not have
reached the preeminent status it currently enjoys.
With complete reverence toward these founding principles and without
any plan to abandon them or diminish their significance, ASTM
recognized that in order to continue to compete (and win) in the
standards development arena, the changing needs of the global
marketplace needed to be recognized and embraced. This sensitivity
would ensure ASTMs continued participation as a major contributor
in the SDO environment and help guarantee the prolongation of
our exemplary level of service.
The mid-1990s saw ASTM invest sizeable capital toward the improvement
of the technological capabilities inherent in the changing needs
of industry. The increased utility of the ASTM Web site elevated
standards development to a level unimaginable to our constituency
of a generation ago. Tools such as draft standard templates ) enable new documents to be created in ASTM format. Interactive
Standards Development Forums provide an online, globally accessible, 24/7 location to post
documents, receive and discuss feedback, and gain a general degree
of consensus prior to initiating actual ballot activity. Broadcast
e-mail communication from the home page of an ASTM committee has
taken the dissemination of information to an entirely new level
and electronic balloting will serve to revolutionize the current
philosophy of standards development by eliminating the delays
inherent in a postal-reliant process, broadening the availability
of the material in question, and quickening a review process occasionally
seen as lethargic.
Technology and Committee E53
Committee E53 realized that if they stood any chance of meeting
their goal of producing approved, full consensus standards in
one year, they would have to avail themselves of every technological
advancement ASTM had to offer. They began with the draft standard
templates and, with some up-front editorial support from ASTM,
produced four draft documents that were posted as Interactive
Standards Development Forums. Each Forum held a roster of approximately
10 people and within six weeks every document had received multiple
comments and had been revised several times.
A series of conference calls with the initial contact group helped
facilitate the organizational meeting in June 2000, a home page
for the committee (complete with contact information and a request
for participation) was posted immediately upon establishment of
the activity, and the bylaws for E53 were developed, distributed,
and ultimately approved via purely electronic means. The committee
completed a successful round of subcommittee balloting and was
the inaugural participant in ASTMs electronic balloting pilot
program during which they conducted a multiple-item main committee
ballot. The ballot closed in December 2000 and the first three
standards produced by Committee E53 on Property Management Systems
were ultimately approved on time and in compliance with their
original goal set one year earlier.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Was this activity representative of the average ASTM scenario?
Probably not. The members of Committee E53 come from an industry
completely new to the standards development activity of this Society.
The process and the guidelines they established for themselves
worked (in part) because they are comfortable with communicating
in an electronic environment. They had no preconceived expectations,
nor did they have to unlearn any specific process or procedure.
Can the technology employed by Committee E53 to hasten their standardization
objectives work in a similar fashion for other ASTM activities
(new or existing)? Absolutely. The results obtained by E53 highlight
one key element of standards development within ASTMthe ASTM
process is entirely capable of moving as quickly as the need driving
the process dictates. Need and urgency are wonderful motivators.
If they are sufficiently present in a specific activity, the ASTM
process will not stand in the way of achievementin fact, it might
just serve to hasten it. //
Copyright 2001, ASTM